Fiction VS Nonfiction
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you want to include contrasting views. Contrast is powerful and necessary to making a good story. Let’s explore why you need contrast in your book.
In fiction, the contrasting viewpoint or opposing view is known as the antagonist. This is your main villain. Without having a contrasting view, you will not have conflict. Your fiction will fall flat without conflict. This is true for short stories or novels. You have to have someone for the protagonist to fight (literally and figuratively). Often, the best stories make the protagonist and antagonist equals in intelligence, looks and temperament. You don’t always know a person is an antagonist right away.
However, antagonists don’t have to be people. They could be nature as in man versus nature stories. An example of this is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. The fisherman is battling the sea and elements to get his prize fish to the dock. They also could be animals as in man versus animals. An example of this is Little Red Riding Hood. They can be God, god or devil, etc. as in man versus deity. They can also be an inner voice within the protagonist. I don’t mean that the protagonist is hearing voices or schizophrenic, although sometimes he or she is. I am talking about self-doubts that plague a protagonist during the story. The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe is an example.
The point is, no matter what type of story you are writing, you need contrast to make the story move toward the climax. You need an opposing viewpoint throughout the story to keep the reader engaged and keep suspense in your story.
Understanding the need for contrasting views in nonfiction is not as easy to do, especially if you are writing a memoir. Have you noticed that when you read celebrity memoirs, the books usually have people giving opinions? These are contrasting views. You might even have the celebrity talk about something in his or her past that a sibling remembers differently or discusses what another person thought at the time.
Even if you are writing a memoir, you have to include opposing views. It makes your life more interesting if you have someone else talking about you. In addition, it shows that your life isn’t all roses, but you had to endure your share of thorns.
In other nonfiction, you need contrasting views to lend credibility to your writing. If you are an expert on healing and want to write a book about your method of healing, you should include scientific studies, mainstream medical views and alternative medical views that might not be the same as yours. You can show how you are different and better or discredit the other views in your chapters. However, you want to write the opposing views in a way that is respectful of that research and viewpoint. You also want to explain your position in a way that doesn’t sound childish or petty. A good editor can help you with this technique.
By having the contrasting views, you are showing that you are knowledgeable about your field. You understand what people already know. And, you understand basic principles of your industry.
When I edit someone’s work, I pay attention to those questions I have as I read the manuscript. Then, I ask the author those questions. Often, my questions relate to opposing views the author failed to recognize. I often recommend that they include something about the other side in their book. Authors fail to see why they need to show the other side if they are trying to promote themselves as an expert. The reader won’t consider you an expert if you leave gaping holes in the information you are providing.
For example, say you have a new theory on nutrition. If you don’t answer the readers’ questions about your theory, you won’t be considered an expert. You will be considered a quack. Then, people will discount everything you write. You need to show you are an authority. To do that, you have to have contrast in your work. You have to say, “Mainstream research has been focused on this … and this is what was traditionally found. However, my approach bypasses these flaws …” While the wording can be changed, you have to have it in your book.
You will produce a higher caliber book and entice more people to buy it. You will also be able to show why you are the leading authority on the subject.